Cain: Harassment claims resurfaced as part of ‘intended smear campaign’

Herman Cain told CNN Tuesday he believes he is the victim of an "intended smear campaign" as he continued to defend himself from allegations he sexually harassed two women while serving as president of the National Restaurant Association. 

Cain said the allegations were surfacing now in an attempt to discredit his insurgent presidential campaign.

"Obviously someone is encouraging them to bring it up now because I'm doing so well," Cain said. "I absolutely believe that this is an intended smear campaign."


Cain, who echoed his concerns later on Tuesday on the "Laura Ingraham Show," is a front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination. He narrowly led former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in a Des Moines Register poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers, 23 percent to 22 percent.

On Ingraham's show, Cain said he was "absolutely" suspicious of the timing and worries that new, false allegations will emerge in hopes of submarining his campaign. "There is no doubt in my mind, no doubt in our mind, that this is because I have done so well in the polls consistently," Cain said. "And the other thing Laura that I would add is, I'm sure that there's gonna be some more trumped up charges."

The Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry campaigns have said they had nothing to do with surfacing the charges against Cain, which were reported by Politico.

The story has made Cain the country's No. 1 political story, and the maverick candidate has been at the center of a media storm since it broke. Cain has given several interviews over the past two days and spoke at the National Press Club on Monday. 

Conservatives have rallied around the former Godfather's Pizza CEO, and his campaign reported raising $250,000 on Monday.  

“Yesterday with the firestorm was one of our best fundraising days online ever, since the campaign started,” Cain said to Ingraham.

Cain has given a few accounts about what he remembers of the charges against him, which reportedly led to two financial settlements involving women who left the restaurant trade group. Cain has said he knew of only one of the settlements, which he described at one point as a termination agreement.

In an interview with PBS host Judy Woodruff on Monday night, Cain elaborated on one alleged incident in his office in which a female employee reported feeling uncomfortable. Cain said that he had made a comment about the appearance of a co-worker.

"One incident with the one who made the formal charge — the only one that I could recall after a day of trying to remember specifics — was once I referenced this lady's height, and I was standing near her, and I did this saying, 'You're the same height of my wife,' because my wife is 5 feet tall and she comes up to my chin," Cain said. "This lady's 5 feet tall and she came up to my chin. So obviously she thought that that was too close for comfort."

With CNN Tuesday, Cain insisted that nothing further had transpired and that his secretary was sitting right outside his office at the time of that incident.

"We were in my office. The door was wide open," Cain said.

Seeking to qualify his Monday statement to Fox News that he was "unaware of any sort of settlement" stemming from harassment charges — a claim that was quickly cast into doubt — Cain said the departure of his accuser was a "separation agreement," as opposed to a "legal settlement." He also said that he was not attempting to be intentionally deceptive and he had revealed all the information he could recall. 

“This happened 12 years ago, and so I have been trying to recollect all of the various pieces of this throughout all day yesterday and the best account is the one that I did on Greta van Susteren later that evening — not changing the story, but trying to fill in as many details as I could possibly recall,” Cain told Ingraham.

He told CNN the payment was "not outside our guidelines for what most people get ... when they leave the restaurant association involuntarily."

— This story was posted at 10:49 a.m. and updated at 12:41 p.m.